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FreeBSD vs. Linux: 20 Things to Know About the Systems

If you’re an avid Linux system user like me or are working as a sysadmin for managing company networks, chances are you’ve stumbled at least once with terms like FreeBSD and BSD. So, what are these, and what is their significance?

In this guide, we’ll cover the differences between FreeBSD and Linux thoroughly and will also highlight their similarities at the same time. Overall, our objective is to enlighten our readers about the different variations of the infamous Unix systems and how they are categorized.

Stay tuned throughout this guide to learn more about these legacy systems in order to choose the right one for your job.

FreeBSD vs. Linux: Things To Know

Below, we outline the 20 most important things to know when choosing FreeBSD vs. Linux as your next system. Stay with us to gain insights into these two Unix powerhouses and determine how they fit you.

1. Definitions and Jargon

Before diving directly into the subtle differences between FreeBSD and Linux, let’s discuss what they refer to in general. As you probably know, Linux, as a whole, is not considered an operating system.

The term usually refers to the kernel, a mere set of mechanisms that builds up the core functionality of the system. With added user-friendly features and applications like multimedia players, internet browsers, editors, and others, Linux is rolled into various flavors. 

These distinct yet very similar OSs are known in the community as Linux distros. If you’ve ever used popular Linux distros such as Ubuntu, Mint, or Fedora, they are all Linux systems with distinct flavors, that’s all.

FreeBSD, on the other hand, refers to a whole different operating system. It’s based on the BSD(Berkeley Software Distribution) systems, which were developed at the infamous Berkeley Labs. 

When we talk about various BSD systems such as NetBSD, OpenBSD, and FreeBSD, we merely refer to a whole new OS different from Linux distros. To know why and how they differ in nature, read the next sections, which outline their origin and inception into mainstream use.

2. Origin

You should already know that despite the differences between FreeBSD and Linux, they’re both considered as Unix-like systems. So, what do they mean when talking about Unix-like systems?

In general, both Linux and BSD systems are almost identical to the original Unix system developed by Denis Ritchie and Ken Thompson during their time at the AT&T Bell Labs. However, due to copyright issues, the two pioneer computer scientists were unable to release their world-changing Operating System to the public. So, they decided to hand over the already-built system to their peers at Berkeley.

The BSD foundation originated to modify the original Unix system and altered the original sources as long as the code couldn’t be identified as the same as Ritchie’s and Thomson’s. Thus arose the BSD family of Unix systems. They’re almost identical in nature to the legacy Unix developed by Ritchie and Thompson, with the same structure and functionality but modified codebases.

At the same time, Linus Torvalds, a Finnish graduate student, was trying to buy a Unix system for his Operating System course at the University of Helsinki. Luckily for us, he didn’t have enough money for it, so he decided to build a clone of the system himself.

He took ideas from MINIX, a Unix-like system for educational purposes, and made the entire kernel all by himself. Thus, Linux began its inception into the community and, with future collaboration with the open source movement, strengthened its position as the most powerful and widely used Unix-like system ever developed.

3. Development

For years, Linus Torvalds maintained the development of the kernel himself with help from fellow open source enthusiasts from all over the world. Today, the kernel itself is developed and managed by the Linux Foundation, with over a hundred thousand developers across the globe.

As per Torvalds’s point of view, the foundation only extends the kernel and makes it available for the community, which then shapes it into different distros popular among us. As the development of the kernel is centralized, Linux maintains its legacy of being a very stable system.

FreeBSD, on the other hand, is developed by a central group of people and is distribution-based. The team rolls out new versions as they envision and thus often poses compatibility issues with earlier versions. However, as it’s a direct derivative of the Unix source, FreeBSD is much more “Unix” than Linux can ever be!

4. License

To understand one of the primary reasons behind the occurrence of differences between FreeBSD and Linux, you need to understand their respective licenses in depth. Linux distros come with the GNU/GPL(General Public License) popularized by pioneers like Richard Stallman. The license gives users the freedom to obtain, share, and modify any existing software. So you can edit your own Linux distro if you want, without any legal hassles or obstructions.

FreeBSD, on the other hand, comes under a BSD license. Developed and maintained by the UC Berkeley, this license is also very similar to the GNU license in essence. However, it doesn’t grant permissions to modify the software all by yourself. So, with Linux distros, you have the ability to edit the OS or add extra features all by yourself, but FreeBSD doesn’t let you do this.

5. Packages

When choosing one Unix-like system over another, such as FreeBSD vs. Linux, you’ve to spend a moderate amount of time figuring out how your picks perform when it comes to shipping out packages.

Linux systems offer a wide array of third-party packages that can do almost any type of work. You can get your hands on specific packages via distro developers and third-party PPAs.

Although very appealing for their massive list of available packages, Linux systems often tend to get caught in an ever-growing nuisance when it comes to managing all those different sources from which you’ve installed your packages.

Malware and other potentially harmful codes have also been reported to creep their way into systems via some form of untrusted source.

FreeBSD, however, takes a somewhat conservative approach when it comes to shipping out user-convenient packages. BSD ensures all packages are part of a single centralized repository. This prevents unwanted codes or snippets from finding their way to any particular BSD package. So, FreeBSD systems are even more secure than Linux when it comes to installing packages.

6. Shell

The shell is one of the most influential inventions of Unix systems. It lets users control and play around their system seamlessly. The universal Unix shell was sh. This shell has been upgraded ever since, and we’ve seen the inception of even more powerful shells, such as bash, zsh, and tcsh.

Linux systems always come out with a default bash shell. It’s a universally acknowledged and mighty powerful shell that can help you achieve almost anything on most POSIX-compliant Unix systems.

FreeBSD, on the contrary, comes up with tcsh as its default shell. This shell is especially popular among old-school folks like us who still use their shells for writing their programs. The syntax of the tcsh shell is identical to C, the programming language Linux itself is built on. So, you should be able to guess how powerful tcsh can be in the hands of power users like you.

7. Performance

Performance is one of the most crucial factors when it comes to choosing between FreeBSD and Linux as your primary system. Thankfully, both systems are known to perform exceptionally well in various performance measurement metrics.

Although very powerful in their own right, both systems perform individually well than the other in some particular areas. FreeBSD has a very low latency in terms of networking protocols. This is the reason streaming behemoth Netflix sided with FreeBSD as its primary server component.

Linux, on the other hand, delivers extra speed and performance when running native applications. As Linux is much more application-centric than FreeBSD ever will be and has hardware support from corporations like IBM and Intel, Linux systems always tend to run their applications slightly faster than their BSD counterparts.

8. Filesystem

One of the core benefits of Unix-like systems is their effective implementation of the filesystem. Linux and FreeBSD incorporate a filesystem schema that lets users determine and control their file tree more efficiently than their Linux. In a Linux-based system, you can typically find the executables installed by you in /bin, /sbin, /usr/sbin, or /usr/bin directories based on their source and purpose.

FreeBSD vs Linux filesystem

The difference between FreeBSD and Linux lies in BSD’s implementation of a more stratified filesystem schema. We’ve already discussed that BSD systems differentiate between core packages and ports, and as a result, their filesystem schema also represents them.

The base system software in FreeBSD resides in the same directories mentioned above. However, third-party ports of other miscellaneous software will be stored in the directories /usr/local/bin or /usr/local/sbin. The configuration files for each third-party port can be found in the /etc. directory, just like in Linux.

9. Common Tools

One of the main reasons Linux users find FreeBSD confusing is the difference in implementation between various FreeBSD vs. Linux common tools. Many of the tools most common to today’s Linux users are direct derivatives of the BSD and Unix systems and have slightly different implementations.

For example, Vi and Emacs, two of the most powerful editors for Unix-based systems, were initially developed at the AT&T Bell Labs and UC Berkeley labs for use with BSD Unix systems. After the inception of Linux, these tools were rewritten under the GNU license. However, the GNU variants of such tools are often backward incompatible.

BSD systems, on the other hand, still maintain the BSD versions of such software. Although the BSD versions are the original implementations of these standard tools, they often differ in commands and usage from their Linux counterparts.

This confuses Linux users even more as they try to use such software in the BSD systems as they did on Linux. So, if you’re moving to FreeBSD from a Linux system, we suggest you check the man pages of common tools before using them.

10. Hardware Support

When choosing between FreeBSD and Linux, many people consider hardware support as an essential consideration. Although many people don’t understand the importance of running a system across several architectures, advanced users know it briefly.

In general, Linux comes with a broader range of architectural support. So, you can run Linux systems across a lot of different platforms. This helps Linux secure its position as the go-to solution for running servers on distinct architectures.

However, this greater range of architectural support comes at the cost of performance trade-offs. As Linux needs to support different platforms, developers can not compromise some crucial performance factors.

FreeBSD, on the other hand, comes with limited architectural support. Although limiting in nature, FreeBSD ensures users get the same performance out of their system from any given platform. Think of Apple devices. As the company owns and maintains its own hardware, its systems run more precisely than Android and Windows devices, where systems run across many different architectures.

11. Graphics Support

Graphics support is crucial when it comes to choosing between FreeBSD and Linux as your day-to-day operating system. Being the most popular open source Operating System, Linux comes with a large list of support from graphics vendors. The drivers are more sustainable and offer more performance than their BSD counterparts.

FreeBSD vs Linux graphics support

FreeBSD, on the other hand, has fewer graphics support than most Linux systems. As it is not a mainstream system, vendors often overlook FreeBSD when it comes to shipping out systems or hardware support.

The releases for graphics drivers also take much more time on FreeBSD than they do on Linux. So, if you’re an avid gamer who needs regular updates for his graphics drivers, we suggest you stick with Linux for now. However, if you need your system only for server or networking-related tasks, FreeBSD can be the most suitable choice for you.

12. Stability

Stability is of great concern when it comes to choosing your central system. Despite how powerful your system configuration may be, you will not get the expected performance out of your system without a stable and precise system. Often, we see people divided over the stability issues of FreeBSD vs. Linux.

As Linux systems are a bunch of different components added from various sources, it often leads to cumbersome stability issues. The development team behind Linux is more global than organizational, which, in turn, leads to redundancy when it comes to providing stable performance metrics.

FreeBSD systems, however, are much more stable than their Linux counterparts. As a select team of developers develops the whole system, FreeBSD is much more organized than its Linux counterparts.

This leads to its being much more stable while reducing internal nuisances as much as possible. So, if you are looking for a stable system to run your heavy-duty servers, we advise you to seek FreeBSD over Linux systems.

13. ZFS Support

One of the best software to manage your local file system and logical volumes, ZFS was developed and maintained by the infamous Sun Microsystems Inc. It has advanced features like directing and controlling the placement, storage, and fetching of data in commercial computing systems.

So, if you’re looking for a system that comes with ZFS support, you need to consider how FreeBSD vs. Linux does in this regard.

Sadly, Linux does not come with direct support for ZFS. Although you can still use this amazing software in your Linux system via third-party ports or modules, this often leads to reduced software performance.

However, FreeBSD always comes up with integrated support for ZFS. Because the application is built into the FreeBSD system directly, the performance is very native and much more appealing for commercial purposes than it is on most Linux systems

14. Updates

When installing updates, FreeBSD clearly wins between FreeBSD vs. Linux in terms of user convenience. Although most Linux systems experience a much faster updating schedule than their BSD counterparts, the update process tends to frustrate even the most prolific users.

Updating any existing software on your Linux machine means that the previous version of the software is completely removed or purged from your system. However, what if you want to go back to the earlier version of one of your favorite software? You need to find the correct version again and install or build the software one more time.

FreeBSD vs Linux updates

FreeBSD is much more flexible than Linux in this regard. It lets users select what to update and what to leave as is. You can choose only the core components like src, world, and kernel to update while keeping all other parts of your system the way they are currently. Not only this, but you can also select sub-components to update. This gives much more flexibility and convenience to FreeBSD users than Linux systems will ever do.

15. Backward compatibility

Yes, curating new features is exciting for both developers and users alike, but it does have a little caveat associated with it. Most Linux systems are only a little backward compatible. This is because Linux distros are nothing but a bunch of different components added from varying sources. This leads to degraded backward compatibility as most systems cannot keep track of such numerous compatibility logs and update them accordingly.

Also, the countless number of open source contributors that take part in the Linux development process makes it almost entirely impossible to ship out applications with greater backward compatibility support.

BSD systems, however, take the more traditional “Unix” approach of extending an application as far as possible without replacing any of the legacy codes. Although much more time-consuming, this approach makes sure most of the software installed or ported into your FreeBSD system has available support for backward compatibility.

So, if you need backward compatibility in your server computer, choosing FreeBSD over Linux seems to be the safer bet.

16. Customization

This is where the debate tends to get very tense among users of FreeBSD vs. Linux. As you should have guessed by now, both FreeBSD and Linux systems are more customizable.

As discussed above already, FreeBSD has a much more generic view of updating its system. This helps users maintain and customize their FreeBSD systems much more exclusively than Linux machines.

From building your own customized kernel to installing desired packages, FreeBSD lets you play by your own rules. Plus, you can even update the system world without updating the modified kernel.

Although customizable as much as their BSD counterparts, Linux systems tend to frustrate even the most advanced users when it comes to maintaining their customization efforts. Suppose you developed your own Linux kernel according to your requirements.

What will you do when you need to install a new update? It will also update the core kernel, diminishing all those customization efforts you put into your kernel.

17. Community

As with every open source enthusiast, community support is really crucial when choosing between FreeBSD and Linux. Thankfully, both operating systems have an amiable and respectable user community across the globe.

The Linux community is obviously very extensive, as it should be. It has a much wider range of audiences than its BSD counterparts. From novices to super users, you can even find the creator of the kernel himself on some forums.

The FreeBSD community, however, might feel a little shallow – at first. Although you continue to delve more towards this fantastic software, you will start to feel the heat of its notorious community. The people in the BSD community are much superior when mastering the historical and philosophical analysis of the original Unix system.

18. Documentation

Documentation needs to be an integral element for any open source project to be successful. The amount of proper documentation you can get your hands on plays a major role when deciding between FreeBSD vs. Linux. Gladly, both FreeBSD and Linux have very high-quality documentation readily available.

You can almost always get the solution to every problem you encounter with your Linux machine if you search for it the right way. The massive community of this fantastic platform makes sure any and every type of current and future problem gets documented.

FreeBSD, on the other hand, excels most when it comes to quality. You don’t need to search the whole web for your BSD problems with this Operating System. Just visit their awe-inspiring forum to get your hands on high-quality and authentic BSD documentation.

19. Security

Thanks to their tightly monitored development process and a massive list of super users, Unix-like operating systems are usually very secure right from their inception. When deciding between FreeBSD vs. Linux based on security avenues, you’ll find out that both of them are incredibly secure.

Although it’s been in the community for decades that the BSD variants of Unix systems are more secure than their Linux counterparts, we do not stand with such statements. Without misconfiguration from the user end, both FreeBSD and Linux are almost impossible to penetrate.

We do admit, though, that as FreeBSD is maintained by a very select group of professionals and only ships with elemental functionalities, it tends to be more stable than most Linux systems, which in turn makes them even less susceptible to attacks – thus more secure.

20. Releases

As Linux systems are shipped out as distros, their release schedule often varies. However, you can get your hands on some new distro releases almost every quarter of a year. The more popular and stable distros, such as Fedora, Mint, and Ubuntu, have pre-scheduled release dates.

FreeBSD, on the other hand, takes much more extra time to get new features due to its extended release period. However, this additional period helps FreeBSD retain its position as the more stable Operating System in yearly debates over FreeBSD vs. Linux.

Finally, Insights! FreeBSD vs. Linux

Congratulations on finding your way to the end of this massive guide. Hopefully, we’ve provided you with the essential insights you need to choose the most suitable system for you between FreeBSD and Linux. As we’ve been trying to say throughout the post all this time, both systems are compelling and consistent in their own right.

Yes, some differences do exist—and so do some trade-offs. We suggest you outline your requirements first and then see for yourself which platform better serves your purpose. This thoughtfully curated and analytically explained guide should be all you need in your quest for the best Operating System between FreeBSD and Linux.

Mehedi Hasan
Mehedi Hasan
Mehedi Hasan is a passionate enthusiast for technology. He admires all things tech and loves to help others understand the fundamentals of Linux, servers, networking, and computer security in an understandable way without overwhelming beginners. His articles are carefully crafted with this goal in mind - making complex topics more accessible.


  1. “Infamous” is a pejorative. It does NOT mean “not famous” or “really famous.” To be infamous is to have a reputation of the worst kind. Mother Teresa was famous; Al Capone was infamous.

  2. While the article (and comments) are all quite good, my thinking in choosing one or the other is where the ‘rubber meets the road’. How do they work on my machine (HP Pavilion laptop, 6G ram, AMD Ryzen 3, Radeon Mesa card). Most Linux distros install quite nicely, where as I have yet to get any of the BSD distros to even install. I’ve tried every BSD listed on DistroWatch but none have ever installed. Most fail halfway though the install process. So, again, for me, I will stick with what works. Linux works, BSD does not.

    • probably because the bsd’s might not nearly as much driver selection as linux. for example, linux works with everything on my rpi, but freeBSD doesn’t have support for wifi on some SBCs (same with netBSD too, isn’t included in openBSD installer for rpi but is downloaded from internet later).

  3. After read all thoughts, I think that the years of closed source was dead.
    I were used CPM/80 , SCO XENIX, MINIX, all versions of LINUX and PFSENSE.
    The new era, do not belong to operating systems, but by the APIs ! See Nodejs, this guys rocks!
    The big heck is: TIME versus MONEY versus RESULTS !
    Take erase guys, there are new disruptions on radar !
    The beast network performance of BSD is awesome, like the “Do yourself way” of Linux From Scratch !
    Do you want huge performance?

    Newbies, Hackers, Geeks, Nerds and Doctors, let’s work ?

  4. All in all, an okay article, but it contains a ton of factual mistakes:

    1. Linux and BSD are NOT identical to the original Unix system developed at the AT&T Bell Labs. Please, refer to Wikipedia to correct this. The history is pretty complex, especially from a copyright standpoint, but interesting enough to delve into it.

    2. New FreeBSD versions do NOT pose compatibility issues. It’s quite the opposite. FreeBSD is light-years better at maintaining compatibility with previous releases and it does so in a progressive fashion. You don’t have the Linux mess in which you have 3 different ways of configuring network interfaces, one of which is obsolete, but allowed, one is common to most distributions (NetworkManager) and one is distro-specific (wicked, netplan, etc.).

    3. It’s as difficult/easy to get malware into the FreeBSD ports collection as it is to third-party Linux repositories. As FreeBSD has less developers, it’s difficult to guarantee that all of the ports, especially ones without active maintainers are as well vetted.

    4. tcsh is NOT the default shell on FreeBSD. You can choose from either tcsh, csh or sh for new users. The default root shell is csh for traditional reasons.

    5. The syntax of the tcsh/csh shell is NOT identical with C code Where did you get this info from?. It’s also NOT ever recommended to write scripts in for a multitude of reasons.

    6. Very often FreeBSD ports configs are stored in /usr/local/etc. Some in /etc, but that’s NOT the preferred location.

    7. Performance is always highly debatable. Apples and oranges. Hardware compatibility is better on Linux, but perhaps still acceptable for specific FreeBSD use cases.

    8. Vi and Emacs were NOT written for BSD systems and then rewritten under GPL. Where did you find this information…? Upon reading this, RMS would instantly explode.

    9. ZFS can be used on Linux just as well as on FreeBSD. No performance losses there. The only issue is integrating the various ZFS tools with a Linux system as systemd .service unit files, which isn’t always perfect.

    10. The BSD vs GPL license differences were covered by other people already.

    There are some pretty big claims in the article, suggesting that the author has used both FreeBSD and Linux, though I have doubts. It looks more like a product of skimming Wikipedia articles without prior knowledge and cherry-picking facts. Especially, considering how the subsequent chapters seem to contradict what was written in previous chapters (for example, first mentioning how FreeBSD is not good with backward compatibility, yet later exclaiming to the contrary). Please, try to correct the mistakes so that readers can wholesomely profit from the article :).

  5. Well done other than the licensing. Some try to explain the differences and you come away not knowing any more than what you started. You conveyed the differences in a way that enables people to get a “feel” for the differences, and from that, be able to determine where they want to be. I will attempt to also convey the feeling, and hopefully be accurate at the same time:

    1. Licensing:
    Scenario 1: You develop a Universal Inbox Appliance that you market to financial service companies that manages the phone system, records conversations, archives all Emails, and all faxes. In this case you would want the BSD License because you could modify and extend FreeBSD without giving away your source code so others could steal all of your hard work. Apple’s OS started as FreeBSD and they work together to this day. It is the basis of many firewalls and routers. When GCC changed their license to GPLv3, FreeBSD switched to CLANG for their C-compiler to preserve the BSD license protections for your projects.
    Scenario 2: You have an RDBMS system that you have developed that could be a lot better if there were more people working on it. GNU/GPL(General Public License) is what you want. It makes it safe for you to donate your code for others to extend without them being able to extend it and make it theirs. If they extend its functionality, they must also make the source freely available for everyone to use so just as they benefit from your code, you can benefit from theirs. Otherwise, there would be no reason for you to do it since everyone would fork the project to protect their extensions, nothing would achieve critical mass, and it would concentrate the best code in the hands of proprietary vendors, which would defeat the whole purpose of sharing your code.
    *Thus, these two philosopies are quite different, each with their pros and cons. Since Linux borrows heavily from UNIX architecturally, and they are both open source, it also means that if it is made for Linux, it can also be compiled to run on FreeBSD.

    2. Legal reasons why there is so much more Linux than FreeBSD?
    – BSD was involved in a law suit over intellectual property at a critical juncture in Linux’s life. It appeared to be valid, but at length, the suit against it failed. In the interim period of great expansion of open source, Linux became the only place of safety.
    – Linux was also involved in a serious lawsuit by SCO later for the same reasons. However, after the BSD suit and suits that were lost attempting to protect interface design, people required more convincing before they would act on the claims of the plaintiff before a judgement. Linux had dominated the trade press because with BSD in doubt, it was the only place people could go, and the environment was similar to UNIX’s. A lot of development took place during this time, there were some pretty sizeable GPL contributions made by some large players to leverage OpenSource developers, and there were some large players now using it who have deep pockets. SCO’s legal team confidently boasted of many lines of code proving infringement on intellectual property that they claimed was theirs. Because of the lack of specifics, to me it appeared to be a scam, but I was not at risk, and I can see why others could be convinced to buy licenses from SCO at $699 per processor when you consider what it would cost if you were caught infringing. Initially, there were not enough cards showing to know if they were bluffing. What added credibility is the severe consequences for SCO via GPL if they lost. SCO made their living selling SCO Unix, support, and software. One of their largest customers was AutoZone. AutoZone switched much of their operation to Linux for cost reasons. SCO threatened AutoZone. AutoZone told them to pack sand. SCO decided to make them a poster child and threatened everyone using it if they didn’t pay. The industry was in a frazzle. Novell, who also had an interest in Linux, told people their claims were not valid, and that they had rights to the code. It was difficult to understand what that meant because their were not enough details publicly available. That put Novell as number one on SCO’s hit list, and SCO expanded suits against HP, Microsoft, Silicone Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and Daimler Chrysler, making their claims seem more likely to be valid. However, when that happened, Linus Torvad’s, the author of Linux, made the curious statement that Novell was the best thing that ever happened to Linux. The lay of the land turned out to be that SCO was given by the responsibility of administering Unix SVR4 license agreements on behalf of Novell. When money was paid for licensing, SCO was to turn over 100% of the revenue to Novell, then Novell would return 5% as an Administration Fee, and Novell had audit rights. SCO made their money on implementation, support, and related products. On August 10, 2007 Judge Dale Kimball, hearing the SCO v. Novell case, ruled that “…the court concludes that Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare Copyrights”. Novell was well prepared for this and asked the court to put appropriate funds from SCO into escrow until the case is resolved, since SCO’s cash was diminishing quickly. Novell also enforced the right to audit SCO’s Unix Licensing Business under the APA, which SCO did not allow, which was a breach of contract. Since it was a breach of contract, they held they did not owe SCO the 5% commission. During the audit, Novell found that SCO had not turned over vital information about the Microsoft, Sun, and Linux End User License Agreements. Part of these were for derivative works by IBM and many others whose trade secrets would now be exposed, and thus pandora’s box was opened. By 2009, SCO was working out of Chapter 11 said they reached a settlement with AutoZone that releases all of their claims. However, the settlement reads, “The motive mentioned is the desire to save the costs of further litigation.”
    *By now, people are convinced that there are real consequences for exploiting GPL code protections. This clarifies why FreeBSD ditched the newer versions of GCC C compiler after the author moved it to GPL3, and pursued the development of CLANG to compile its operating system. There also is much less fear of end users being attached for software they were using in good faith. The most likely consequences would be for them to be told to either leave it or buy it, so nobody will make any moves until things are settled, which would give them plenty of time.

    Other differences
    – Linux is a kernel not an operating system. It is simply a standardized group of APIs that can be addressed by your programs to request hardware and software services. The kernel also provides standardized APIs for hardware drivers to be written to. Thus, when you write a driver for storage, graphics, or printing, it is written to communicate on this standardized interface. This is all that Linux controls. Anything more than this is part of the Linux distribution. FreeBSD includes all of that plus it is a complete operating system, more like Windows, that is always better tested and well documented. With FreeBSD having 77% of the UNIX market, it is really the only UNIX that is of concern, which brings consistency, and other BSDs borrow heavily from each other. Because of its size, drivers are written for Linux before FreeBSD, and are more free to take liberties with the kernel space than FreeBSD will not allow, but they are usually ported to FreeBSD but result in reduced performance. With a smaller installed base, neither the quantity or quality of many 3rd party FreeBSD drivers are on par with Linux drivers. This is one big reason why Linux is the better choice for a desktop environment.
    – Linux is like the wild, wild west. Anybody can make a Linux distribution for any particular purpose and include what they want into the configuration. You could make one for hackers, desktop, robotics, and even cell phones like Android, Android TV, etc. With FreeBSD there are people who think deep thoughts, plan, set goals, etc. Things are well tested before release. It is the foundation of OS/X, and they work together to this day.
    – FreeBSD expects the user to have a better understanding of technology than Linux does, which makes the barrier lower to get started with it. Some Linux distros pride themselves in their user-friendliness and Windows-like graphical installs.
    – Linux is free to use the utilities from FreeBSD, their directory structure, rights structures, and ready-made operating system utilities, and do. All they needed was a C compiler.
    – Linux has many distros that attract developers from many different discriplines. FreeBSD can usually compile those apps and use them.
    – Linux distros have their update systems as does FreeBSD. However, FreeBSD’s is more like Windows in that it tracks the dependencies and ensure that the OS and apps are on the same page. Linux is more like Windows 3.x and DLL hell. It’s not easy to get someone familiar with FreeBSD to move to Linux because of this because he knows he does not need to live there.
    – When it comes to performance, a lot depends on what you are doing. For all out performance of an application, often Linux is as good or better than FreeBSD. I personally ended up leaving Linux because it wouldn’t stand up under heavy loads, which translated in needed much more power for the same situation. When the loads would build on Linux, things would rapidly accelerate and the operating system fall over. The server could incorporate much heavier loads without issue, which translated into fewer servers. Even under heavy DDOS attacks, Email wouldn’t stop until it got above 80, and I could log in at loads of 400 to kill processes. This is something you cannot come close to with Linux. Getting out of DLL hell is a relief. The drawbacks are people are not familiar with it to support it.
    – Linux has much more software support. This is not that different than the Windows vs. MAC situation. There are more developers working on Linux by far, and it often doesn’t make sense to port or support FreeBSD. Because the software is usually open source, FreeBSD users can usually depend on someone porting the popular software to FreeBSD and integrating it into the Ports tree. However, those people come and go, and there is less incentive to support a port when there isn’t much volume. Thus, the old truism is still true today. If it needs to be rock solid under load, use FreeBSD. For apps, use Linux. For Windows apps, use Windows.
    *Of course after this is all of the Ford vs. Chevy, but I don’t care to engage in that because there are no winners where different things are important to different people. This is simply the view of someone who has worked with both.

    • Absolutely right! I installed and support SCO UNIX (early 90’s) until the company went completely MAD and drove away their customers with “user limits” on the licences, expensive add-ons that you had to have… they made you pay for networking **really**. I followed for years (SCO’s legal actions).. Tried Linux + GNU in the early days.. what a mess, crashed more times than I can remember! Version 1.0 of FreeBSD was my first CD (although there were still licensing issues with actual AT&T UNIX)… Microsoft owned more than 40% of SCO… how else did you think they were funding the never-ending legal action against everybody. OK, MS have changed but is was a dog eat dog time for all the commercial companies around a superior OS design aka UNIX! If MS could have bought Linux or FreeBSD they would have, cherry picked what they wanted and shut them down, back then that was the “Microsoft Way”. When MS took the FreeBSD TCP/IP code and integrated it into Windows NT 4.0 … then won an award … what a joke!!! Anyway… a lot of companies have jumped on the Linux train but FreeBSD is like the bullet train when it comes to delivering DRM content on netflix for the masses. Well done Netflix.. A note to the Netflix developers who actively send code back to FreeBSD…WOULD YOU PLEASE MAKE CONTENT PLAYABLE ON FREEBSD??? (so I don’t have to run Linux in a VM on byhive).

  6. Thank it was bold for you to publish this article. I use Linux at work and BSDs at home and whenever I can.
    I think this is the most fair article that I have seen on a Linux-based page. I’m also impressed with that other commenters. None of them seem satisfied with your article 🙂 but at least they’re staying on track.

  7. To all of my audiences, I have tried to change the licensing differences of FreeBSD vs. Linux. Now, I think it’s OK with the actual facts.

  8. Something that might surprise, about a fifth of the internets traffic is served by FreeBSD. In the US on ISPs this gets up to 40%. The friendlier license and ability to work with the community/devs are 2 big wins if you’re working somewhere that aims to be involved at that level.

  9. All in all this post is mostly good, but I cannot let it pass about the licensing differences of FreeBSD vs. Linux. You can use and modify Linux and FreeBSD all you want. If you want your changes submitted back the main OS, yes FreeBSD is “less open” as you have to jump through some extra hoops to get it in as only certain commiters can put code in the tree. But for the license itself, the differences is what happens to your modifications. Linux requires you ALSO to license all your code under the GPL. BSD license says you can use all our code, modify it, and have your code under your own license as you choose, but you have to keep our copyright notice. “Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.” Based on your logic, Sony would not be using FreeBSD for Playstation 2/3, Juniper Networks for their JuneOS in switches, Dell’s Compellant Storage to name some.

  10. So many errors, factually incorrect errors. Not debatable stuff, the author is just flat out wrong.

    A few examples……

    2. origin:
    BSD is not modified AT&T/bell Labs UNIX Source. The BSD package was originally a set of utilities installed on a stock AT&T UNIX system. All of it was developed from the original code, not burdened by AT&T license. Eventually, nearly every file in the base install had been replaced by BSD versions. At that time, BSD sought to finally replace all the files, thus completely separating BSD from AT&T UNIX completely, and legally.

    3. Development:
    What compatibility issues with previous versions? FreeBSD has been famous for being incredibly stable, even from release to release. I don’t even know what you are talking about, you just made this claim up.

    4. License:
    Oh my god, do you even know what the GPL and BSD licenses say? You can completely modify FreeBSD source. Do anything you want with it. The BSD license lacks the sticky clause that the GPL is known for. You do not have to re-release changes, you can make changes to BSD licensed software, and close the source.

    5. Packages.
    No, the FreeBSD ports tree is not magically more secure. It has all the same problems as the common Linux package repos.

    6. Shell
    No one, and I mean no one, should ever use tsch (or its father csh) for scripting. It lacks function support for one thing and is considered one of the worst scripting languages ever created by some. tcsh makes an excellent interactive shell.

    also, the bash shell is NOT POSIX compliant.

    I stopped reading at this point because this article is just so awful, and full of falsehoods.

    Please invest in a fact checker.

  11. Point 4 is wrong, you are allowed to modify FreeBSD’s source code. The most important difference between the two licenses is that linux’s license is “contagious”, while the other isn’t.

  12. There are other UNIX variants besides BSD and Linux that many Sysadmins may not know about.
    Rosetta Stone for UNIX is a useful guide to the variants and covers:
    AIX A/UX DG/UX FreeBSD HP-UX IRIX Linux MacOS NCRUnix NetBSD OpenBSD Reliant SCO OpenServer Solaris SunOS4 Tru64 Ultrix UNICOS .
    For those of us who worked as sysadmins 20 years ago, we often had to come up with dot file schemes that would adjust the users’ environment automatically between OS variants from a single physical account. Where I worked, it was between AIX, IRIX, HP-UX, SUNOS, Solaris, the first versions of Linux and a variant called Apollo DomainOS: . Some readers may still find the Rosetta Stone site above to be helpful in their work.

  13. Didn’t read the whole thing, but you’re wrong about the license at least. With GNU you can modify, but you have to open source any modifications you do. Basically. The BSD license has no such restrictions. You can do whatever you want. BSD licenses provide more freedom to the user then GNU.
    You might want to edit that part.

  14. “However, it doesn’t grant permissions to modify the software all by yourself. So, with Linux distros, you can edit the OS or add extra features all by yourself, but FreeBSD doesn’t let you do this.”

    I think you need to double check this statement. BSD allows modification and redistribution in source or binary formats. BSD is even more permissive than the GPL due to allowing the modifications to be released in binary form licensed differently

  15. That is not how GPL and BSD licenses work. In essence you have to make your modifications available under GPL, and don’t have to under BSD. You are free to modify and distribute under both.

  16. I stopped reading at the part about licenses. “FreeBSD, on the other hand, comes under a BSD license. Developed and maintained by the UC Berkeley, this license is also very similar to the GNU license in essence. However, it doesn’t grant permissions to modify the software all by yourself. So, with Linux distros, you can edit the OS or add extra features all by yourself, but FreeBSD doesn’t let you do this.”

    Where do you get the idea that the BSD license doesn’t grant you permission to modify the source code? What do you mean by ‘by yourself?’ Of course the BSD license lets you add features/modify the OS. The primary difference between the GPL and the BSD license is that the GPL requires that any modified code you’ve made and distributed must also be licensed under the GPL and the source code must be available. The BSD license does not require you to make the source code of your modifications available, hence why Apple can take FreeBSD, make changes to it and sell it as part of OSX.

    Ergo, the GPL is a ‘viral’ license (self perpetuating) while BSD license is not (which is why the code is frequently adopted in to closed, commercial products)

  17. There is a lot wrong with this article. To BSD history has major issues, but most importantly the BSD license description is COMPLETELY wrong. BSD license lets you modify the software, but doesn’t require you extend the BSD license when you distribute.

    If you receive BSD licensed software, you can edit. Then you can distribute your custom version under a license other than BSD (such as a closed license). With GPL, all edits remain GPL.

  18. What do you mean by this ?

    “FreeBSD, on the other hand, comes under a BSD license. Developed and maintained by the UC Berkeley, this license is also very similar to the GNU license in essence. However, it doesn’t grant permissions to modify the software all by yourself.”


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